Filipinos in US urge support for family amendments in immigration bill

Jun. 07, 2007

WASHINGTON — With the U.S. Senate poised to vote on a compromise immigration reform bill (S.1348) next week, the National Federation of Filipino American Associations has joined other civil rights organizations in calling for improvements to the measure as a condition for supporting it.

While we welcome the move to provide undocumented immigrants a path to legalization, we are deeply troubled by drastic changes to this proposed legislation that would do away with family-based visa preferences, says NaFFAA National Chair Alma Kern. The American people want Congress and the White House to affirm our nations commitment to strong family values by fixing a broken system that has separated family members for as long as 23 years.

Noting that these separations have impeded the full integration of immigrants in U.S. society, Kern adds that America has benefited immensely from the time-honored policy of family reunification. Unified families are more stable and will most definitely invest in building communities here in the United States. It has been demonstrated over the years that strong communities strengthen cultural diversity, which is the foundation of our countrys greatness.

Among the amendments overwhelmingly approved by the Senate two weeks ago during floor debate was a bill introduced by Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) that would fast track the immigration of eligible children of Filipino World War II veterans. We thank Sen. Akaka for continuing to work hard on behalf of our veterans, Kern says. We hope that the 87-7 vote for this amendment will also translate into a solid support for the Filipino Veterans Equity Act. Two companion bills H.R. 760 and S. 57 are currently pending in both the House and the Senate.

NaFFAA is calling on Filipino American community leaders and their members to urge their senators to support amendments that would either preserve or improve the current family visa system and put families first. The Menendez-Hagel Amendment would change the cut-off date for legal immigrant applicants from May 1, 2005 to January 1, 2007 the same cut-off date set for the legalization of undocumented immigrants; the Clinton-Hagel-Menendez Amendment will re-categorize spouses and children of legal permanent residents as immediate relatives, thereby eliminating the cap on the number of visas available to these family members; the Dodd-Menendez Amendment would increase the annual cap of green cards from 40,000 to 90,000 for parents; and the Obama-Menendez Amendment would sunset or repeal the point system after five years of implementation. The Senate bill proposes a merit-based point system to replace the current systems of family-based and employment-based immigration.

Kern is encouraging the Filipino American community this week to call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You will be directly connected to your senators offices. Urge both your senators to support the amendments described above. This is very critical to our community.

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